The Bears were among the NFL’s biggest players in the early hours of free agency, signing a starting left tackle (Jermon Bushrod) for $36 million and a starting tight end (Martellus Bennett) for another $20.
That’ll be about it for at least a little while.
“We are up against the salary cap,” general manager Phil Emery said on Tuesday. “So we are going to have to be slow and methodical,” referring to a likely “spread of signings” and “bits rather than batches.”
The Bears will not be pursuing a starting guard or right tackle in free agency.
Signing their own
Part of the reason is the need to resolve some contract issues with players in free agency from the 2012. Nick Roach and Brian Urlacher are both unrestricted, and after Geno Hayes signed with Jacksonville and defensive coordinator Bob Babich on Wednesday, the Bears’ options for experienced returning linebackers are slim.
Emery described the situation with Urlacher only as an “ongoing process,” not viewed definitively as his being either back or gone.
Draft scenarios growing
As noted previously by CSNChicago.com, the signings of Bushrod and Bennett create significant flexibility for the Bears in the draft, both in selection options as well as trading down to add picks. Emery left no doubt that dealing down was an option.
Left tackle was a primary need this offseason and Emery said J’Marcus Webb would indeed be moving to right tackle. Gabe Carimi will have the opportunity to work at tackle and at guard, an indication that the Bears are not likely to make a major push to re-sign guard Lance Louis, rehabbing from a season-ending knee injury. They do not have the money and may in fact already have the player to step in.
Grab a left tackle when you can
Despite the depth at offensive line in this draft, Emery and the Bears were not sure enough of landing a starting left tackle at left tackle. In fact, “most years you’re not going to find a starting left tackle at No. 20,” he said.
Add to that the likelihood of the Bears being no worse than middle of the pack with at least eight or nine wins for the foreseeable future, “when would it be that we would be able to draft a left tackle?” Emery asked.
“For us the time to strike was now.”